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Comments

James Hellyer

That's correct. It also points to one real weakness the Davis camp - the media are out to get him including the so called "right wing" press. That may not bode well for his leadedrship.

Jonathan Sheppard

What will be telling is if Davis can stand up to any media onslaught (which I believe he can) then it goes a long way to show the kind of resilience needed by a future leader. Id rather the contenders are all tested with some passing or failing now, than electing one who then falls at the first hurdle once they are in place.

a-tracy

Guido "we need a different approach that sees drug addiction as a medical problem,"

NO it is not a medical problem, it is a personal weakness that users then expect the rest of us to pay for through re-hab and treatment because they've let it get out of hand. Personally I'd prefer to spend the tax payers money on pension increases or the treatment of cancer. If money is to be spent on drug re-hab it should be taken from the assets of dealers that are caught, do people that use drug re-hab have to contribute to their treatment and how much does it cost per person in the UK, do people get fined when caught using, a £100 fine each time should help to pay for treatment.

Perhaps someone can set up a web fund with anoymous access where everybody like Andrew above who sees no problems with recreational drug use can contribute £1 each time they play into the fund that can then be used for drug education and rehab. But if it as I suspect that users are selfish, self centred and in it for their own enjoyment they won't want to pay up, lets see how libertarian people are if they have to personally financially support their habit's downside.

"The war on drugs approach is wrong."

What war on drugs approach - what action is taken against users? Do they get penalty points, do they get automatic rehab and get charged for it after so many offences, do they get community service? Many users of this blog have informed me that some say 90% some say 40% of people are doing drugs I don't see any action taken against them, for example there aren't hundreds of young people doing any community service that I see!

As for a lack of drug education - this is tosh - if there is one thing the Labour government has done it's bring thorough drug education into High Schools, my son knows more about drugs than the rest of our family put together. Whether this stops him with the University Peer Pressure that seems to be about we will have to wait and see but I hope we've brought him up to be his own person and keep his head.

As prohibition proved in America attacking the suppliers doesn't work - stop blaming the dealers in isolation it's the users that cause the problems. Without users there's no market without users there'd be no sellers.

James Maskell

I dont agree with you at all about the personal weakness comment. Drug addicts cannot simply stop...thats why its an addiction and not just a hobby. Similarly with smokers, its a medical problem and support has to be there to help people be re-habilitated. Your view is yours to have but I think its a very simplistic view and doesnt look at the whole picture.

James Hellyer

James, people can only stop using drugs if they want to (unless they are denied access by a third party), and start taking them because they want to - the same as with smoking. Hence personal weakness.

a-tracy

Then James people shouldn't advocate that its a harmless recreational past time should they.

a-tracy

Plus smokers argue that they pay sufficient taxes on cigarettes to pay for their medical problems and rehabilitation. Drug users can't make that claim can they. As for giving up, my mother gave up smoking after 40 years recently, my nan gave up a 30 per day habit the day after her stroke. Believe me there is nothing 'simplistic' about my views on all drugs (including the legal ones).

Whats the whole picture you want me to look at, I do have an open mind to alternative view points that's why I like websites like this.

James Burdett

Looks like the Sundays are going hard on the Drugs issue with a story about George Osborne....I don't know whether to laugh or cry, to bear witness to the damage some are willing to do to the party in a desparate attempt to bring down one leadership contender. It just seems to me that the papers have been determined to go with a modernisers and drugs line and are finding the most tenuous of stories to acheive that.

Ronald Collinson

It simply isn't true that 'most people have taken drugs' - they didn't.

It is impossible to be certain of this, but you're probably right. My point is that it appears that the majority of people have taken drugs. This is the public perception.

I know countless current and past PhD students who have and continue to smoke it on occasion.

That is obviously the case, but it can be observed (and I would admit that observational evidence, based on perception, can be unreliable) that people who take up cannabis perform less well than they did previously.

Also, you may find it "pointless", but that's just a meaningless subjective position.

This is quite possibly because nobody has ever managed to explain themselves to me. The answer is almost invariably a rejection of the reasons not to, rather than a positive assertion. Some claim that it strengthens friendships, but it seems to me that it would be a very strange relationship that would be bolstered through hallucinogenic drugs.

It's certainly true that people who have never taken cannabis can live in happy ignorance about any questionable benefits it might have without having to suffer the ill-effects.

Andrew

What action is taken against users? Through the 90s, approx 15% of all arrests were for cannabis possession - this increased gigantically in the previous 20 years (partly due to policy in the Thatcher years, partly lazy police looking for easy arrests). This increase in arrests and convictions completely failed to do anything about use/abuse levels, which instead rose sharply during the same period. I don't have stats to hand for heroin/cocain use, but they followed pretty much the same pattern - this is far more serious than the cannabis factor, and is one of the reasons we have such a gigantic heroin problem today.

As for personal responsibility, that's all well and good (although inconsistent with banning the private use of a herb). However, drug abuse is a problem with consequences far beyond the single user - it creates vast amounts of crime, destroys families and costs a fortune in policing and long-term health effects. Given that the policies of the last 30 years have failed so abysmally (worst drugs record in Europe is a pretty blunt indicator), a more interventionist health-based approach is long overdue. Generally I dislike policies with such welfarist overtones, but in this case the alternative is just shccking: two hundred thousand British heroin addicts is appalling.

Either addicts steal to fund a habit, or you have a managed approach designed to cure addiction. This costs peanuts for the government to run - the taxation rake alone from addicts becoming employable pays for the programme, while savings on crime and policing are immense. Proof of this can be seen in Portugal, where they decriminalised all drug possession (hard and soft drugs) in 2001. There has been no increase in drug use, deaths have halved, and the savings from policing/crime costs can be spent on rehab. Certainly it needs to be a carefully administered and well-constructed policy, but Portugal's experience has been an unqualified success. By contrast, Sweden went for the most prohibitionist approach in Europe over the last decade. Result: drugs deaths went up 400% in just under a decade. In a few years, they will overtake Britain's position at the top of the drugs deaths table.

Prohibition of drugs is nothing more than a government abdicating responsibility. It creates the very problem it professes to oppose, by ruining the lives of users with criminal convictions and raising prices so much that mass crime is inevitable (both by organised gangs and users stealing to fund the habit). Decriminalise instead, and a government seizes control of the entire market, and thus can tackle the problem and its many severe consequences.

Andrew

>My point is that it appears that the majority of people have taken drugs.

The majority have, and regularly do. Tobacco and alcohol are very damaging drugs, and kill approx 150,000 people in this country every year. However, nobody would advocate criminalising them. Why? Because everybody knows it would fail disastrously.

As for illegal drug use, you have a vast number of cannabis users, perhaps 10% of the population - although since it's not addictive, most are just occasional users. Heroin users number around 200,000. Most of the rest aren't terribly significant in use levels these days, excepting cocaine. Crack is always reported to be threatening to explode in use, but it never seems to happen.


>That is obviously the case, but it can be observed (and I would admit that observational evidence, based on >perception, can be unreliable) that people who take up cannabis perform less well than they did previously.

How can you tell that's down to cannabis? It's quite likely they also drink heavily, like so many teenagers in this country. Also, it's an age group with an enormous variety of problems. My experience is that heavy cannabis or alcohol use is symptomatic of other problems - escapism, rather than a cause in its own right.

>The answer is almost invariably a rejection of the reasons not to, rather than a positive assertion.

If the motivation is based on standard teenage rebelliousness, then criminalisation is actually fuelling demand. This is actually a fairly common argument used to advocate decriminalisation, although personally I think it's all fairly speculative and imprecise. Does anyone really see cannabise use as glamorous? Maybe in the 60s it was, with all the obvious political/counterculture associations, but now it's just a bit of fun. If any drug is glamorous it's the celebrity associations of cocaine, due to our moronic media.

Geoff

How about this marvellous piece of BBC bias.
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/4346386.stm

"Mr Davis said in a Channel 4 interview he did not believe anyone who had used hard drugs in the recent past would be suitable to succeed Michael Howard.

David Cameron's three rivals have all said they have never taken drugs."

Ken Clarke drinks, smokes and sells them! That is not the same as the implication in the previous paragraph of the article. None of the candidates, as far as I am aware, say they don't drink or smoke. This is not intended as an anti-Clarke (or pro DC) comment, but as a reminder of how the media are spinning against our party. We should be wary of how we are being portrayed by what Andrew perfectly describes as our "moronic media"

Michael Smith

Ken Clarke drinks, smokes and sells them! That is not the same as the implication in the previous paragraph of the article. None of the candidates, as far as I am aware, say they don't drink or smoke.

The problem is that drinking, and smoking tobacco, are legal, whereas the media is more interested here in people who have done things that are illegal.

I'm slightly baffled by the complaints of spin against Cameron. Were you also complaining about spin against Davis during the week of Conference? Do you complain about the press calling Fox 'right wing'? And anyway, I thought that Dave was going to transform the image of the party with his grasp of the dark arts of media management and his unique understanding of how we are supposed to appeal to a wide range of voters?

Ronald Collinson

The majority have, and regularly do. Tobacco and alcohol are very damaging drugs, and kill approx 150,000 people in this country every year.

Ha! Good point, of course. Obviously, I was referring to illegal drugs, because there is an added dimension of 'wrongness' in breaking the law.

My experience is that heavy cannabis or alcohol use is symptomatic of other problems - escapism, rather than a cause in its own right.

Great possibly. I attempted not to imply a causal relationship. However, it is undoubtedly true that, while under the influence of cannabis, people do very strange things, and their ability to concentrate on anything deteriorates enormously. Many younger users who find themselves indulging in the drug nearly every other day, and a very great number of them are likely to take it at least once a week; that will undoubtedly have an effect.

...but now it's just a bit of fun.

Well, exactly. Many teenagers think that they're immortal, they really do. Despite the immediate consequences, the possibility of more severe effects in the future, and the prospect of punishment, people still take cannabis, and worse.

But – but – if people think that they'll be caught, that they'll receive some sort of punishment, they'll stop. Unfortunately, this is very unlikely. Those about to be drugs-tested must be given notification a week in advance, more than long enough for the illegal substances to be excised from their system.

Worse than that, though, is the culture of acceptance. In rural areas, there is some shock at the idea of imbibing any illegal substance. In most towns and cities, however, cannabis smoking would generate nothing more than a raised eyebrow. Cocaine and heroin would cause concern, horror even, but would not be seen as surprising.

And, yet, people do not want to become addicted. Illegal substances are almost invariably taken communally, at least to begin with. The prospect of doing such a thing in private still causes fear flash in the eyes – at least, in my area. If teenagers begin to feel a real craving, they'll give up for a while, until they think that they've recovered. Then they'll be lured back, thinking their wills strong enough to resist their minds and bodies, and a brought one step closer to their inevitable downfall. This true of illegal drugs; it is true of underage smoking; it is true even of cannabis, which may cause a dependence if not a physical addiction.

There is yet, I believe, a way into people's minds. David Cameron is right that the government focuses too much on 'reducing the harm from drugs and not enough on reducing the use of drugs'. And, yet, I cannot imagine him being much more effective than Tony Blair.

He appears to have liberal views on cannabis. Cannabis, in the minds of many young people, is associated with the 'hard' drugs. Legalising it, even refusing to condemn it as Cameron has done, sends signals of acceptance of the drugs culture. Before now, he has never shown the slightest inclination to 'get tough' on drugs. Once again, we are faced with the fact that Cameron is an unknown quantity.

Geoff

"The problem is that drinking, and smoking tobacco, are legal"

Yes, Michael, absolutely correct.

My point was that the BBC said simply "drugs", and that also includes headache pills and a cure for the avian flu that the papers tell us will apparently wipe us all out within the next six months or so. That shows a nasty slant and bias on the part of our state media that I was warning we should be alert to. When you correctly complain about selective spin, then you surely also understand that the BBC swing hundreds of thousands of votes at each election because of the opinions (represented as news) of the reporters we effectively invite into our homes at our own expense every evening. That was my point, and is a danger during our current navel-gazing.

However, if in this forum we are also arguing that unlawful acts automatically preclude one from ever standing for public office, I would note that foxhunting was perfectly legal until recently.

Can I never lead our party because I enjoy something which the puritans have now temporarily outlawed? When it is decriminalised, what future acceptability for public service to a hunter convicted during the ban? Is the conviction of a cannabis user more or less 'serious' if they smoked before or after it was re-categorised? Should I feel guilty drinking a bottle of vintage South African wine bottled under Apartheid?

If we banned everyone who has ever smoked a joint from public office then I would guess that the number of MP's left tomorrow would be .... what do you think? 10? 20? 30?

Ronald Collinson

f we banned everyone who has ever smoked a joint from public office then I would guess that the number of MP's left tomorrow would be .... what do you think?

Well, quite a lot. This is why nobody is going to do it. We all know that Francis Maude once smoked cannabis, but nobody mentions it. This is because he made a frank admission. It is, of course, possible to say that Cameron deserves a private life, but such an argument can hardly be put for his undertaking of an illegal action.

The vision you describe would, of course, be pretty confusing, but we needn't worry. The public are not likely to accept the legalisation of cannabis any time soon. The ban has lasted since 1928, and it is quite likely that it will outlive today's overly liberal society. The Countryside Alliance like to say that the unseating of Peter Bradley was their handiwork, but it seems to me that his liberal stance on cannabis did him far more damage. But I digress...

Legalising cannabis would be an enormous step backwards. It has taken fifty years of dedicated campaigning to get tobacco use under control, and even now illegalisation is not a realistic prospect. Prohibition of alcoholic beverages would be even more unpractical. If cannabis became legal, it would be difficult, if not impossible, to reverse the situation.

And, of course, we would wish to reverse the situation. Levels of schizophrenia, psychosis and depression would rise;discipline in schools would deteriorate; anti-social behaviour would increase. There are a whole host of problems associated with recreational cannabis use, and its benefits are questionable and temporary. It would be obscene to legalise a harmful substance.

Your attack on the BBC is rather unfair. Everybody knows that, by drugs, we mean 'illegal drugs'. Perhaps not accurate, but not indicative of comprehensive bias. For some reason, most of the otherwise-reasonable people here accuse the BBC of bias; given that similar complaints are lodged by the left, I should think that they're doing a pretty good job.

Geoff

Thank you Ronald for a very considered response. I agree (and was certainly not advocating otherwise) that cannabis will not be legalised soon, if ever - in fact if nicotine was produced for the first time tomorrow then it would be Class-C and prohibited immediately. Alcohol, if new, would be a firm candidate for Class-C too. Both legal and illegal drugs have a horrible influence on our society and we should be very concerned about the policy our party adopts. We may all disagree here about where the line is drawn, but a line must still be drawn regardless, and that is the job of the new leader. It's not unreasonable to ask our candidates where they think that line is (certainly no coke pun intended).

Your attack on the BBC is rather unfair. Everybody knows that, by drugs, we mean 'illegal drugs'.

No, the BBC article doesn't say that. Read the article again. See how the tone changes between the paragraphs. The BBC have deliberately blurred a very important issue. DC will not comment on the subject, but KC has specifically only denied taking charlie. That then carries an implied question for DC. KC hasn't, as far as I am aware, specifically denied taking heroin? Amphetamines? Sniffing glue? Beta Blockers to improve his snooker game? That means that the BBC are deliberately being disingenuous, and KC is playing a very risky game for us by raising the stakes to imply allegations of specific Class-A drug taking. Read my earlier posts again - I am concerned how this is playing in the media, which is where our new leader will win or lose in the next couple of years.

Let's just leave this one where it is and walk away.

Michael Smith

However, if in this forum we are also arguing that unlawful acts automatically preclude one from ever standing for public office, I would note that foxhunting was perfectly legal until recently.

Can I never lead our party because I enjoy something which the puritans have now temporarily outlawed? When it is decriminalised, what future acceptability for public service to a hunter convicted during the ban? Is the conviction of a cannabis user more or less 'serious' if they smoked before or after it was re-categorised? Should I feel guilty drinking a bottle of vintage South African wine bottled under Apartheid?

Geoff, aren't you confusing several different things here?

Maybe I'm wrong, but I was strongly under the impression that using cocaine was illegal, even back in the dim mists of the mid 1980s. Whereas drinking South African wine was, as I recall, completely legal? And isn't the whole problem about hunting that the legislation brought in by the Labour government is so badly constructed that it is, in fact, perfectly possible to do something that looks very much like hunting whilst remaining within the letter of a sloppy, unworkable law?

So - a future Conservative leader could drink South African plonk even during the Apartied era, and might be able to ride out now, but really should consistently avoid taking coke in order to stay within the law. Because that's the point, I think, for some of us. Laws may be good or bad, wise or foolish, but for the rule of law to function, we all need to obey the laws - even those we don't much like, such as the ones that require me to pay tax but not to own guns - rather than just choosing, a la carte, the ones that might appeal to us at a particular moment in time.

Finally, if anyone's about to suggest that doing coke might be a bold gesture of civil disobedience in the face of a bad law, the whole point about civil disobedience is that you have to be quite public about what you are doing! Whereas if you just refuse to be clear about whether you've committed an illegal act or not, the gesture isn't a particularly brave or effective one.

I still think it's worth knowing whether all the candidates have broken any laws at any points in the past. If they have, this doesn't preclude them, in my mind, from being able to lead the Party. But at the same time, transparency both serves the practical function of anticipating any stories that might later cause embarassment and distraction (if e.g. published in the course of a General Election campaign), whilst also giving the respective candidates a chance to explain that they now understand what they did to have been wrong, and that they regret it.

Otherwise, what they are tacitly saying is this: "laws are there for other people to obey, whereas I am above the law". And I, for one, don't think that's a very appropriate message for a Conservative leader to promote.

wasp

I think the classification of cannabis is a worrying sideline. This is not nearly an important issue as the problem of getting drug addicts into treatment not prison.

Weed is no cheaper or easier to get hold of, and reclassification did not make any socially more or less acceptable.

I had some mental health problems which could have been related to occasional dope use, but its classification would have had no effect on prevent me from smoking, only better knowlege and education would have done that.

Journey

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I am from Algeria and learning to speak English, give true I wrote the following sentence: "Spend the day or spend the weekend at giant fleamasters fleamarket."

With respect :P, Journey.

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